By John Okiyi Kalu
When the free school meal program was introduced by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in 2016, the usual crowd of naysayers expressed doubts, made all kinds of politically motivated noise and attempted to poo poo the program describing it as unnecessary and unsustainable.
Governor Ikpeazu was undaunted and pressed on, with the initial contributions to the program made by Abia farmers and philanthropists led by Chief Raymond Aliga of Goodseed Farms Ltd.
It is important to note that Abia State Government, led by Governor Ikpeazu, started free school feeding before the federal Government launched its version of the same program.
Later, the state keyed into the federal government program to fund the feeding of primary 1-3 pupils only.
After the federal Government took over the funding of the feeding of pupils of primary 1-3, Abia State Government decided to add primary 4-6 for a simple reason explained by Gov Ikpeazu.
“I cannot as a first son or elder brother take my younger one to school daily and you feed only him but expect me to remain calm, happy and keep coming to school enthusiastically. It will therefore be demotivating, and the humane response from us was to take up the funding of the feeding of primary 4 to 6 pupils to ensure family peace, equity and fairness.”
Today, Abia is the ONLY state in Nigeria where primary one to six pupils are fed daily.
The result is that public primary school enrolment in Abia schools has improved from about 150,000 pupils in 2015 to more than 600,000 pupils currently.
Abia children are healthier and more excited about going to school than they were before Gov. Ikpeazu came to office while their parents are relieved that some burden has been taken off them.
Even teachers in Abia primary schools are fed, in addition to their retraining program, anchored by Australian education service providers launched by Governor Ikpeazu to ensure improvements in quality of teaching in Abia schools.
Permit me to inform you that in the coming months, ASUBEB will be launching another aggressive teachers re-training program on behalf of Abia State Government, which will cover teachers in primary and junior secondary schools in the state as part of efforts to ensure that Abia remains many more miles ahead of others in education, not just the confirmed number ONE.
Concurrently, 304 new classroom blocks have been constructed by Governor Ikpeazu with furniture already provided in about 112 of the new classrooms while others are receiving finishing touches.
Note that the school furnitures are 100% Made In Abia by Abians duly trained through Governor Ikpeazu’s skill development programs.
Power of incumbency
In September 2017, Governor Ikpeazu described his understanding of power of incumbency as follows:
“My personal understanding of power of incumbency is that you start working for your people from day one so that when it is election time your work will speak for you.”
Yesterday, over 5,300 cooks employed by the government for the feeding program, under the umbrella of Abia Primary School Cooks Association (APSCA) their spouses and children, stormed Okpara Auditorium Umuahia to thank Governor Ikpeazu and his wife, Deaconess Nkechi Ikpeazu, who anchored the program, for providing them with a means of livelihood.
The cooks endorsed Governor Ikpeazu and pledged their PVCs to him in 2019.
If the cooks live up to their pledge, Governor Ikpeazu is already assured of 5300 confirmed votes without campaigning. Add their spouses and adult children of voting age, you will likely have a minimum of 15,000 assured votes at a time Governor Ikpeazu’s rivals are spending money to organize rallies to welcome 20 new members with no cogent tie to their candidacy..
That is the electoral power of hard work by an incumbent Governor.